CASE STUDY

Developing vegetable-forward clean label products for a new market

Client Background

Multinational specialty food distributor

The client is a multinational food distributor based in France and focused on specialty products from multiple categories, including dips and sauces, staples, and infant formula.

Challenge/Opportunity

Reinventing product portfolio for a new market

The client wanted help to develop and launch two plant-based, clean-label brands as part of their plans to expand to the US market. The company’s strategy was to reinvent their portfolio to suit the expectations and tastes of the US consumer. 

They sought out external support to create authentic, entrepreneurial, fast-to-market solutions with a nimbleness that can sometimes be a challenge to achieve from within a large corporation. The client also wanted support for product development as they had limited resources in-house to address the complexity of these types of products.

  • For brand #1, the company wanted to reinvent pudding cups with vegetables as the hero ingredient.

  • For brand #2, the company wanted to reinvent the hummus category so as to stand out from the already crowded hummus space. 

In addition to innovation support and subject matter expertise for product creation, the client also wanted end-to-end project management. 

Expert
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The expert who helped the multinational client create these two new brands was Dr. Raphaëlle O’Connor. 

Raphaëlle is the founder of inewtrition, a food product development company that helps companies improve their portfolios or create new product ideas that meet consumer demands for healthier, functional, and sustainable foods. She has over 25 years of experience in the ideation, development, and commercialization of food chemistry, food science, and food technology using strategic partnership, collaboration, and systematic governance processes. Her areas of expertise are primarily functional foods and beverages as well as health and wellness categories.

Raphaëlle acts as an innovation catalyst and ambassador for the product portfolio, leading and supporting the regions through sharing knowledge, technical support, and collaboration within converging product categories. She has led numerous international and regional interdisciplinary teams, supporting the implementation of product development projects with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Wyeth Nutritionals, Nestlé, Pfizer, and Amgen. 

Solution

End-to-end product development and scaling

Raphaelle provided end-to-end turnkey solutions for the company that covered product development and scaling as well as searching for and selecting a third-party manufacturer. Raphaelle also worked on the package and website design. 

Her experience working with multidisciplinary teams helped her navigate across different internal departments to develop a plan to create the two unique brands.

Brand #1: 

For the pudding cups, Raphaelle led product development by reformulating initial recipes and developing new flavors based on indulgent desserts. 

To bring in the vegetable-forward positioning the company wanted to focus on, she used a range of different vegetables for the prototypes, including tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and others, as well as a combination of these. Raphaelle also experimented with ingredients from different suppliers and in different proportions to see what would be the most suitable in terms of taste and texture.

She created over 20 prototypes with different textures and flavors to test out.

Raphaelle’s development of this brand also covered: 

  • Producing the first pilot runs
  • Creating the packaging specifications and designs
  • Managing the design of the website

Brand #2: 

For the hummus category’s reinvention, the company didn’t just want to replace chickpeas with vegetables, they also wanted to enhance the nutritional profile of the final products. They wanted greater fiber content, low sugar and low glycemic index carbohydrates.

In addition to better nutrition, the range also needed to be clean label. They had found during the competitor landscaping stage that current products in the US were lacking in nutritional value and were high in water or fat content.

To create this range as well, Raphaelle had to experiment with different vegetable and fruit ingredients, including tomatoes, peppers, carrots, greens, sweet potato, and carrots.  

For this range, Raphaelle’s work included:

  • Leading product innovation and development 
    • Initial reformulating 
    • Developing new flavor SKUs
  • Searching for, vetting, and selecting a qualified third-party manufacturer with high QA standards 
  • Creating the packaging designs 
  • Developing a website for the brand

Challenges:


One of the biggest challenges for these products was around shelf life stability and increased shelf life. The products initially were to be manufactured in France to be sold as fresh products in the refrigerated section of stores. But the shelf life needed to be seven to eight weeks. So in terms of processing and packaging, she needed to make some significant improvements to meet those requirements for the US. So she and her team had to adjust the processing parameters and the packaging to prevent any microbial contamination and maintain product quality. 

RESULT

Product prototypes ready in just a month

The final result of this project was as follows:

  • For Brand #1, Raphaelle finally narrowed down 5 SKUs for vegetable-based pudding cups from the 20-plus prototypes.

  • For Brand #2, she created 3 different vegetable-based hummus alternatives with better nutritional profiles within just one month. 

The project is still in the commercialization phase, and Raphaelle is leveraging her global network to identify suitable commercial partners for manufacturing.

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